Friday, February 28, 2014

Non-Stop

Rated PG-13 / 1 hr 46 min / Action - Mystery - Thriller

What is it about?

Liam Neeson plays an air marshall who has been assigned to a non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. In the early morning hours he gets a text. One of the passengers on the plane is threatening to kill one passenger every 20 minutes unless they put $150 million in a specific account. Liam is left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out who the passenger is. To make matters worse the account that the terrorist wants the money transferred to is under the air marshall's name. Now most people think he is the terrorist.

You will like it if...

You like smart thrillers. The twists and turns in this movie are fantastic. For most of it the script is very well written. It keeps you guessing throughout. Neeson is flawless and Juliann Moore is a capable copilot for the ride. Most of the rest of the cast is average at best, but they don't matter much until the end of the movie. That is where everything that was great about this movie falls apart. The reasoning behind the attack is almost silly. Also towards the end gravity and the laws of physics don't seem to apply to Liam's character. The director decided the fight scenes should be shot in the extreme close up where you can't tell what is actually happening. I found this one to be highly entertaining, and one of the best movies starring Liam Neeson since Taken. I was just disappointed with how they squandered the great set up with a subpar ending.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Ghost Part 24

A friend of mine asked me what "The Ghost" was all about after looking at this website, so from now on I'm going to include this description.

The Ghost is a serial story that I update every week on Wattpad. It follows the exploits of a master thief who is also known as 'The Ghost'. You can read the blurb, or catch it from the beginning using the link below.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/8505298-the-ghost

This Week's Update

The Ghost Part 24 - A strange flying beast says hi to The Ghost while she is being pulled up by Malachi.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Negative Reviews

In this week's blog post I wanted to discuss negative reviews, and if they have a place in the current world. I'm also testing the effectiveness of dictating a blog post through the voice to chat option on my phone. I had to go on a last minute trip out of town. Currently I am driving on the road and trying to write a blog post at the same time. Please pray for me and hope that I do not crash! 

For those of you who have been following my journey I have finished editing the 11th chapter of the novel, and have started editing chapter 12. I also got a message today saying that The Writer competition, I wrote Liquid Perception for it, has been disbanded. This on the heels of getting a message saying that I had made it to round 2.  The person who was running it erased all traces of the account the competition was linked to. I'm going to declare myself champion right here and now. If anyone who was in the competition wishes to challenge me, send me a link to your submission for the first round. I will not be too proud to admit it is better than mine if I think it is. Otherwise I'll get an impartial third party to declare a winner between the two.

Now back to the subject. I recently saw a link to a NY Times article that asked two authors their opinions on if negative reviews were needed (link). I'm not going to try to put things as eloquently as those two, but there are a few things I want to say on the subject of negative reviews. I personally love negative reviews that provide constructive criticism because there are a lot of positive things that can result from them. My reasons are listed below.

1. Negative reviews give authors a chance to acknowledge or fix errors

Sometimes authors are too close to their writing to see the the issues with it. That is one of the reasons why all authors need an editor. There are still some small errors that slip through the cracks even after looking over the work hundreds of times. If your published with a traditional publisher they have control, and the error may not ever be fixed.   At least you could put something on your website to let people know that there is an issue. An independent author can fix the issues and resubmit the story.

2. Negative reviews could give authors ideas on how to improve their craft 

Beginning authors are constantly evolving creatures.  Until they find their true voice the way they write is in a state of transition. I've heard from several experienced authors that you need to write somewhere in the range of 1 million words or right for several years before you're really ready to publish. There is a lot of truth to that. I have found from reading my own awful first draft that I have improved so much since I first started the first Virtual Wars novel.  When I go back and look at the first draft, I wonder what the crap was I thinking?  Constructive criticism in a negative review can help give an author direction. It can help provide a path for the author to improve that they did not see before. I also think that some of these authors need that negative reinforcement to let them know that things need to change. If the reviews are too nice, the author may not feel as if the change is needed or important.

3. Negative reviews can help push sales. 


I can hear you all say "What are you smoking?" Just hear me out. Take a look at recent trends on television. Some people love watching a train wreck. You can see that on the roads when there's an accident people are all looking around to see what happened. Slowing down traffic at the same time. Grr! This is the reason for the success of shows like Maury and Jerry Springer. Word of mouth is the best advertising even when people are speaking about it in a negative way. That doesn't mean that authors should write horribly broken stories.  I doubt any author really wants to be known for that! Believe it or not there is a small market for it! However, you don't want your negative reviews to outshine your positive ones. You want people to like your writing overall. If you think about it, some of our most interesting conversations end up being with people who have an opposing view. Those people who have taken the time to write the negative review have friends too. Their friends may read your book, in spite of the negative review, just because the critic was talking about it.

4. Negative reviews add credibility to the overall rating of an author's work.

I'll be the first to admit that I am one of those people who doesn't trust the rating for books that only have positive reviews. Who is writing all of these reviews?  Friends? Family? People they paid to write a positive review?  With a negative review you know this is most likely someone who read or at least partially read the book. The trolls who post negative reviews without reading the book are usually easy to pick out. Again I am talking about the well thought out reviews that contain constructive criticism. I use these kinds of negative reviews to try to find out if this is a book that I will enjoy. I look at what other people dislike about a novel, and decide if those things will bother me enough to not enjoy it.

I hope you enjoyed this week's blog post. I wanted to add a note about the speach to text option on the android keyboard. It's most useful for short text messages. This blog post was mostly written using that tool, but not without heavy editing afterwards. I'm not sure if it saved me any time in the process. I would not recommend using it for the purpose of writing a blog post!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pompeii

Rated PG-13 / 1 hr 38 min / Action - Adventure - Drama

What is it about?

This is the story of a young boy who grew up as part of a horse tribe in Britain. They rebel against Rome, and are mercilessly crushed.  The boy is the only survivor. He is later found and raised as a slave. Fast forward several years, and the boy has grown into a gladiator known as "The Celt". He gets noticed by a man of means who brings him to Pompeii to fight. No one there seems to care that the giant volcano is making the ground shake every 5 minutes.  That will change soon.

You will like it if...

 You like movies with pretty special effects, but don't have much else that is special about them.  This movie surprised me because I was expecting it to be all kinds of terrible from watching the previews. It's actually entertaining in the same way Gravity is, and it tries to be a mix between Gladiator and 2012. The story is rather average, but they string it along in a believable way. The acting is average even though Kiefer tries.  His subordinate Sasha Rios does a great job of looking menacing, but isn't given a chance to do much else. The special effects are fantastic except for a few spots where you can see cropping lines in the flames. Most people won't notice, but I've had to use the smudge tool enough to smooth out those rough edges to see it.  I would
wait for Redbox, but if you like the spectacle then you may enjoy seeing this on the big screen.



Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Author Earnings Report: Traditional vs Self Publishing

Knowledge is power. Informed decisions are almost always better than uninformed. That is part of the reason for the firestorm that has surrounded the recent Author Earnings Report that has been backed by author Hugh Howey. The one thing that I commend about the report is the fact that the raw data has been made available. In the current "information age", there is a lot of misinformation. The information surrounding the debate on self or traditional publishing is no different. In today's blog post I want to post my thoughts on the report and one of the reactions to it. 

My own journey is still in progress. I was just informed that I have made it to the 2nd round of The Writer contest based off the Liquid Perception story. I am about 75% of the way through editing chapter 11 of my novel. The Ghost is popping up on the rankings randomly on Wattpad for Horror and Fantasy. I am not an expert in publishing in the least, so I can only try to make an informed decision based off the information provided.

The Report

http://authorearnings.com/the-report/

The information in this report is a valueable weapon for authors. The problem is what do you do with it?  Interpreting the data can be tricky.  A few things from the report seem to be obvious. People who pay more for a book or ebook expect higher quality. Traditionally published books are priced higher on average. Traditionally published books ranked in the top 100 in sales have an average review score lower than other ebooks that are priced lower. There seems to be a correlation, but I'm sure there are more factors that are involved.

A good portion of the report debunks a few myths about self publishing. The data suggests that traditionally published books earn more revenue. The next section in the report shows that self publishing authors earn more in royalties than traditionally published authors. That makes sense when you consider that in most cases self published authors get a much higher percentage of royalties, and traditionally published books are more epensive. This doesn't mean that authors who self publish earn more. This is strictly talking about royalties.

At best this data is incomplete. It's interesting to look at, but it's not a definitive look at the debate. The data mostly ignores print which has been touted as being up to 70% of the business. It also only accounts for sales on Amazon. This is only the first step towards something much bigger. The next link is just as interesting.

Print vs Digital

http://authorearnings.com/what-writers-leave-on-the-table/

This article looks at the sales figures of the top 100 books in print, and compares it to the sales figures of the top 100 ebooks sold on Amazon. This also breaks down the royalties for authors who are self vs traditionally published.

The most impressive thing I took out of this is that the self published author still comes out on top when factoring in print. Even with that 70% of the industry now factored in. This doesn't even account for ebooks sold on Kobo, Nook, and iTunes. According to Apple iTunes may account for up to 20% of all ebooks sold. While every advantage was given to tilt the results in favor of print, ergo in favor of traditionally published authors, the self published authors came out on top.

Now don't go jumping off a bridge now. There are problems with this comparison. It only accounts for the top 100 success stories. There are probably thousands if not tens of thousands of other authors who are both traditionally and self published who aren't represented here. This information is still impressive.

Reaction

http://www.idealog.com/blog/comparing-self-publishing-to-being-published-is-tricky-and-most-of-the-data-you-need-to-do-it-right-is-not-available/?doing_wp_cron=1392532521.6329119205474853515625

I originally wanted to include several reactions to the data, but this blog post is running rather long.  I wanted to include this one because it seems to be the most well thought out of all of the negative reactions I had seen.  I did want to make a couple of comments about it.

"Getting paid for doing the work of publishing which goes beyond authoring."

The author of this article talks about editing and cover design here. This section I see as being the most and least relevant at the same time. The cost of getting a good editor and cover designer is much more reasonable than it used to be.  Also having experience in choosing an editor or cover designer doesn't make anyone an expert. At least as a self published author you have the power to fix it if the editor or cover designer sucks. With a traditional publisher, if the editor or cover design suck, you're powerless to do anything about it.

"The apparent reality: flow of authors is self- to traditionally-published, not the other way around."

This makes me think the author of this article is missing the point. His assertion may be the case, but part of the reason for this report is to give authors some leverage when negotiating with traditional publishers. I'm talking authors in general no matter how they decide they want to publish. Publishers need to wake up to the reality of the direction things are heading before they become irrelevant. Deals like the one that Hugh Howey has negotiated with his publishers should be more the norm than the exception. I'm not saying the same numbers that were involved, but rather some of the more unique aspects of it. I'm sure Hugh Howey would agree that no author in this day and age should give up their rights to digital publication without fair compensation. 

My Thoughts

I feel like this is a great first step towards something bigger. The data pulled is just for one day in the life of sales on Amazon in the industry.  While this may be a large chunk of the entire industry, it doesn't include precise sales data from any other source.  I would like to see more of these snapshots taken to see if they can establish a pattern. That would be even more compelling evidence than these initial reports. Showing growth or decline in author earnings based on a longer timeline could help answer a lot of questions in a more definitive way.

Until publishers, booksellers, etc. decide to share sales numbers, we will never know for sure what the full truth is. This report is the closest we have right now. As I wrote before, knowledge is power. Traditional publishers are holding their cards close to the vest, and it is not likely they will release those numbers anytime soon. It's as if they want us to be ignorant of what is really going on. What are they so afraid of?

It seems to me that Hugh Howey and his as of yet unnamed partner are trying to prove something that many self published authors already know. They don't have the evidence to prove it because of the lack of data available. As Lindsey Buroker (@goblinwriter) tweeted to me "All the indies are nodding and saying, duh, we knew this." Proving it is validation. It's showing authors everywhere another option when some still believe there is none. There are people on the side of traditional publishing who are still using the same arguments against self publishing. Arguments that were valid before the beginning of the ebook revolution. Arguments that are not nearly as relevant as they used to be.  They are still repeated as if they are the gospel handed down by some ancient diety.

I will do my own research into the matter. The people who are trying to approach the debate rationally are providing the best arguments. They are trying to collect evidence to find the truth. If the traditional publishing establishment wish to continue to spread disinformation without providing any evidence to back it up then why should we listen to them? 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Liquid Perception

Liquid Perception - Edwin is locked up in a mental facility. Medications he is hopelessly addicted to are starting to wear off. He gets an opportunity to escape, but will he take it? Will he sink down into the pit of addiction and despair? Will it matter once he finds out the truth of why he is there?

This is my entry for round 1 of The Writer contest on Wattpad.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Robocop

Rated PG-13 / 1 hr 48 min / Action - Crime - SciFi

What is it about?

Omni Consumer Products (OCP) is back to their tricks again. They have robots and drones stationed all over the world keeping the "peace". The problem is that Congress has passed a law that keeps them from selling these peacekeepers here in the United States. If they were able to do so it would mean large profits. They come up with a plan that involves putting a man into a machine. They need Robocop to save the day. Unfortunately, he doesn't act like the robots do, and that puts a fly in the company's ointment. The human element will always be there.

You will like it if...

You like decent action movie remakes. This version of Robocop attempts to reimagine the story. Some things have stayed the same, but the story is quite different. The main storyline feels as if it was mashed together, and parts of it don't make much sense. As with most 80's remakes the script isn't as fun even with the nods to the original. They tried to update the tale with a gritty take on it. The cast is fantastic for the most part, but I'm not sold on Joel Kinnaman as Robocop. Oldman would have been better cast as one of the bad guys, but it doesn't look like he's taking those kinds of roles anymore. He's so good at being bad though! Keaton, Jackson, and Jackie Earle Haley are all fantastic. The special effects have come a long way since the original, but they aren't groundbreaking or original. I almost long for the days of Phil Tippett's stop motion animations of the ED-209 from the original. This is a decent modern update, but it's not nearly as fun.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

8 Things I Learned in 1 Year of Twitter

This past week I have mostly been working on contest stories. The current chapter on the Virtual Wars needs an almost complete rewrite. I have four long paragraphs that may end up being deleted. They are boring exposition pieces that don't help move the story along.  The first round of The Writer has begun. I am to write a story about a character that escapes from a hospital. That story is due on Tuesday, so I may have two stories to post on Monday.

In today's blog post I wanted to talk about a few things I have learned about twitter and promoting on twitter. It has been about a year since I first joined, and it has been quite an interesting journey.

1.) Don't Spam! 

Spamming is bad! Your advertisement posts look just like everyone else's. Most people are going to ignore them. Even if it's something they may enjoy and want to look into. The ads will get lost in the sea of twitter spam that comes across our feeds every few seconds. Automated response messages fall under this category too. All automated messages are bad!

2.) Don't Re-Spam!

What is re-spam? Reposting the same ad over and over again will get you a bit more visibility. More often it will annoy the people who enjoy your other tweets. You don't want to drive your fans away. Retweeting a retweet of your original tweet counts as re-spam overkill.

3.) Follow Back!

Following your followers back will get you opportunities to meet more people, and expand your circle of influence. You want to look at their tweets first. You may not want to follow back if all they do is spam or their account is a fake account made to promote a service. Those people won't help you, so be sure to make sure you are following a real person and not a bot. 

4.) Lists are your friend! 

Make lists from the beginning. There are some people you follow who you may want to read all of their tweets. Lists for friends, other authors you like to chat with, or news sources you enjoy. There are going to be seas of spam all over your main twitter feed. You want to seperate the spammers from your other tweeps. You may not want to unfollow some of those spammers for various reasons, and they aren't going to stop spamming. I've tried to get them to stop before. It's not worth the arguement. Most of them are not going to stop.

5.) Engage with your followers!

Reply to their tweets. Retweet with comments. Respond to tweets that mention you. Be engaging with your tweets. Entertain, inform, and chat with your followers. This is the best way to get them to care when you are trying to advertise something.

6.) Unfollow those who don't follow back

There are obviously exceptions. I wouldn't stop following some of my favorite authors unless they gave me a compelling reason not to. If they don't care about your tweets then why should you care about theirs? The answer will tell you if you should unfollow or not. You want to constantly maintain your list of people you are following as well as your lists. I usually give these people a week or two before I unfollow if they don't follow back.

7.) Keep an eye out for new people to follow

One of your tweeps retweets someone else.  Why not follow them? I'm always trying to expand my circle of influence. If you are an aspiring or are currently an author then you are most likely trying to do the same.

8.) Use Hashtags #

When it comes time to make an advertising post, always use hashtags. They are useful for reaching people outside of your circle. You can also read posts in specific hashtags to find more people to follow. One I have found useful is #reading or #amreading. There are several others you can look into.



 




Friday, February 7, 2014

The Lego Movie

Rated PG / 1 hr 40 min / Animation - Action - Comedy

What is it about?

President Business has obtained a weapon that puts fear into the hearts of all men..  Lego men. It's called the Kragle. His plan is to unleash it and end the world. There is a prophesy that a master builder will find the "Piece of Resistance". That builder will be the most creative, interesting, and special person in the whole world. Several years pass. Introduce an ordinary construction worker named Emmet. He finds the Piece of Resistance, and is now expected to be the person from the prophecy. The problem is that he doesn't have the slightest clue what he's doing.

You will like it if...

You go to see it. It is an instant classic movie about the building blocks that most of us grew up playing with and loved. There are two things that detract from this movie. The animation can be jerky at times, but not as bad as South Park. The bright colors of the bricks can take some getting used to as well.  Everything else in this movie is fantastic. The animation can be amazing at times when you consider the fact that they strictly used Lego bricks. The script is hilarious. It has laughs almost from start to finish. There are parts in it that are emotional once you get closer to the end that fills the gap between laughs. This movie captures what it means to love the brightly colored building blocks. Many of you know that I love Legos. Maybe I'm a bit biased. This movie was everything that I could have hoped for and more.This is a movie that parents can take their children to see, and end up enjoying it themselves.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Ghost Part 21

The Ghost Part 21 - The Ghost learns about the obstacles to come while healing from her injuries.

Thank you all for the love and support this past week. I may crack the top 100 for horror and fantasy this week all thanks to your support.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Will the Next Contestant Come on Down!

I have been excited lately for a few writing contests that I have entered. I'll get to those in a second. I just reached 1000 reads on my work The Ghost on Wattpad. I wanted to thank all of you who made that possible.  I hope you have all enjoyed it! On my current project I have finished with edits on chapter 10, and have started chapter 11. There is a lot of exposition. I have a lot of rewriting to do.

OK enough of that jibber jabber. Let's talk about these contests! I mentioned the contests on Wattpad briefly in last week's blog post, but I wanted to elaborate a bit more on them. Have any of you participated in a writing contest before? What was your experience like?

 And that was the last time I saw them

This is the contest I am most excited about. All of the contestants are to write a tale based off that line. I have an idea for that writing prompt that has me excited. I have already started writing it, and I hope to have the first part up on wattpad shortly.

It is the tale of a homicide detective who is working a late night shift. A man comes in who wants to confess to being a serial killer that the police have been looking for. The detective questions the man. The story the man tells is compelling, but there is no proof. Is he the killer? Can the police arrest him with no proof? Is he a complete nutjob?

The Writer

This contest is based off the TV show The Voice. I don't watch the show, so I have no idea how this will turn out. They start with 50 possible contestants. The 4 writing mentors choose 8 writers. I've been chosen for one of the teams based on my work on The Ghost story. There is only one spot left open so far, so this one should be starting soon.